I’m a fan of sci-fi horror settings, so when I saw this brutal app icon next to colorful screenshots that are really eye-catching, I knew I had to go for this application. Wait, what is this? And is it a premium game with no in-app purchases? Oh Dead seashell, you say all it takes! I was excited to dive deep into the macabre landscape of Dead Shell: RPG Roguelike ($ 2.99) right off the bat. Unfortunately, my excitement was met with a game that doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be. It’s definitely an interesting game with a very cool premise, but that only brings you so far.
Although the words “Roguelike” and “RPG” appear in the name of the application, Dead seashell Barely looks like either and doesn’t really scratch the itchy rash either. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This game places you in sci-fi installations and installations overrun by demons, monsters and the living dead. I noticed an immediate Loss atmosphere before even reading the description of the application, which carries its inspiration on its sleeve. It turns out that we are on a Doom-4 class planet called Plutonia. A very remote colony, which I guess means it is entirely up to the 8 mercenaries you end up unlocking to save the day.
The dungeons and the enemies they contain are completely random in this game. You can use credits to restart a dungeon if it looks like it will be too difficult at increasingly higher prices. Once you enter, the dungeon layout rises in front of you. Your character is nowhere to be found, and battles have a near first person perspective. Everything happens at the same time per turn. When you tap to attack an enemy, you will be attacked. The white portion of everyone’s health bar indicates how much damage they will take, although it is possible to exceed that amount with a critical hit. When you kill an enemy, assuming it’s not a ghost, their bloody remains will be left behind and you can touch them to potentially reveal items. But picking up items and reloading your weapon counts as part of your turn, so don’t take unnecessary damage. You automatically reload after each fight, which leads me to not even realizing I had to reload for the first 20 or so levels.
After reaching the exit of a dungeon, you are shown how well you have completed that dungeon. How many rooms you’ve explored, how many credits you’ve found, and monsters you’ve killed. At first I made a point of trying to erase everything, but as you progress you will find that this is not always possible. You will also find that there appears to be no penalty for jumping straight into the exit as soon as you can. You will miss some credits, which are used to upgrade your mercenaries, but it’s usually not a lot. After each mission, you will receive three random rewards and have to choose one blindly. Sometimes it will be three items of the same item, like the same small stack of credits, so randomly generating these items takes a bit of work.
In fact, the RNG (Random Number Generation) of the whole game needs a bit of work. As you progress in the game, you will unlock chests. These are your bread and butter. You need chests to unlock more mercenaries, more enemies, more areas, and more weapons. You’ll also get ammo and credit dumps which are always nice. It’s possible to run out of ammo completely, so you want as much variety as possible as soon as possible. Eventually, you’ll unlock some really tough enemies, such as the Phantom Lord and the Steel Golem. Where I am now, the only way to defeat golems is to use a specific mercenary whose skill is to remove buffs and damage resistances from an enemy.
Each mercenary has three aspects of his character to improve. Each can improve their health, each master a specific weapon type, dealing bonus damage, and each has a special skill with a cooldown that you can shorten. These special skills are what really sets them apart. The starting mercenary can turn every element of a battle screen, including blood and other elements, into a stack of 50 credits. The shotgun wielding commando can freeze enemies for a few turns. The doctor wields a chainsaw and has self-healing. The Assault Soldier uses huge machine guns and has a special attack that deals huge damage to all enemies in a room. Etc., etc. It’s the Delta Scout who can bypass an enemy’s resistances, which is so powerful later on.
Any mercenary can technically carry any weapon besides their melee ax, so you can experiment. It’s possible to get health and damage buffs for any mercenary in a chest, so it can be a very long time before you unlock them all. Ammunition is universal for all corresponding characters and weapon types. You will get duplicate weapons that you can sell for around 300 credits. The main way to get chests and additional credits is through the quest system. This is your basic 3-mission rotating structure, where you have to kill a certain number of a certain monster, collect a certain number of credits, etc.
Here is the problem with the game. There is very little sense of progression, and what progression there is takes a long time to really have an impact on the game. You unlock random monsters, but a lot of them don’t. are no more of a threat than the others. You unlock new areas, but these are just cosmetic color swaps and new battle backgrounds for your random dungeons. The main sense of progress comes from unlocking new mercenaries and improving them, but it’s a slow process. It would help a lot if I could see all the available unlocks and my progress for them. The chests you find give you all the items in card form. It would be great to have a slowly filling map screen allowing me to check weapon and enemy stats even if I don’t currently have that weapon in my arsenal or currently am about to face this enemy. There are no actual boss fights or milestones. Everything is just starting to seem super pointless.
You have the option to send your ship out for supplies, and upgrading the ship increases the slots available for supplies. This is your solution if you run out of ammo. I upgraded my ship twice and sent it. After a 6 hour countdown I had only ammo. I didn’t even know how much ammo. This is my other problem with this game. It’s very minimalistic, which I can appreciate, but I want more information. All communication is done through bars and icons. I wish things had been explained a little more clearly. You can infer everything over time and figure it out, but still. By the way, I upgraded my ship two more times. It takes another 6 hours to come back. Although this is a premium game, it certainly looks like a freemium game. Timers and chests with completely random loot and all that.
Sometimes there are random events. A dungeon could have been a supply cache with piles of crates, or the scene of a massacre with piles of blood to be crushed into objects, or the stage would have been flooded with poison. At first I found an exo-skeleton with twin machine guns hitting all enemies at once, and it was glorious, but it was over 50 levels ago and I never saw it again. This game has some brilliant moments, but they pale in comparison to the lack of stakes. Did I mention that this “roguelike” doesn’t have an actual death? There is no death penalty. You get a complete game screen, but no progress is reset and there are no setbacks except maybe for some wasted ammo. It made me think of The earth has fallen (Free), which was a cool little game that required you to defend the earth from waves of aliens, but you could watch an ad to endlessly respawn without penalty. Why even? With RPG elements that mostly involve very small cooldown reductions or an extra point or two of damage with a specific weapon, you can see why I said it barely looks like a roguelike or RPG earlier. .
I generally like the layout of this game. I’m still not fed up with that looping song they have. The idea of soldiers and horrible demons as little chibi pixel art characters is quite appealing, and the art and use of color is all very nice. The sound effects are also quite varied. I understand why there could not be a permanent death. The chances of you finding yourself stuck in a dungeon with some super tough monsters are just too high. This is what happens when progress is so random. Heck, you might see an icon of a humble spider and see that there are 3 enemies in his party, but once you start the fight he has two steel golems with him and you’re just done. There is potential here, and I don’t regret buying this game, but I would recommend not checking it out until there are some tweaks to this crazy RNG and progression.